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The Financial Freedom Report is a newsletter focusing on the role currency and banking play in the civil liberties and human rights struggles of those living under authoritarian regimes. We also spotlight new tools and applications that can help individuals protect their financial freedom.


Good morning, readers!

Last week, on halving day, the Human Rights Foundation launched the Finney Freedom Prize to honor the legacy of Hal Finney and inspire others to follow in his footsteps. As the world becomes increasingly digital, the fight for electronic privacy and cash becomes more and more important. We hope the prize, which will reward those who do the most for Bitcoin and human rights in each halving era with 1 BTC, will play a helpful role in this ongoing struggle.

We see this battle on display in Zimbabwe this week, where the recent introduction of the new Zimbabwe gold currency has wreaked havoc on the population. Businesses are already rejecting old banknotes, even though they’re supposed to be valid until the end of the month, while firms trading in USD are finding their bank accounts frozen. Elsewhere, in Bangladesh, soaring inflation has driven thousands of people to carnival games, where food prizes offer small relief from a government-created currency crisis. In Honduras, the winds are shifting in another direction, as Bitcoin has been adopted as a unit of account on the island of Próspera, allowing all financial activities to be conducted and recorded in the digital currency.

Last week, HRF brought these discussions to Pubkey in New York City, as we interviewed Charlene Fadirepo on how Bitcoin is helping Nigerians maintain financial autonomy in a country plagued by record-high inflation, corruption, government overreach, and financial mismanagement. We taped our chat and enclosed it below, so have a listen if you’d like to learn more.

As you can tell, there’s a lot to cover, so let’s dive in!

Global News

Zimbabwe | Population Resists New Currency

The authoritarian regime that rules Zimbabwe has tried to roll out a new currency, Zimbabwe Gold (ZiG), and in doing so has caused significant economic turmoil. Despite a publicized redemption period for old notes that is supposed to last until April 30, local businesses have predictably started rejecting old banknotes, and prices are skyrocketing for basic goods. The government has cracked down on the public’s attempts to seek refuge in foreign currencies. Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono revealed the regime froze the bank accounts of any firms trading in US dollars or refusing to transact in ZiG. What’s more, the new policy has caused the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange to lose 99.95% of its value since the introduction of ZiG, devastating local investors. Zimbabweans remain haunted by the introduction of multiple failed currencies over the last few decades — with memories of catastrophic hyperinflation that peaked at 89.7 sextillion percent in 2008 — and continue to look for monetary alternatives.

Pakistan | Highest Cost of Living in Asia

Pakistan ranks 8th globally in digital asset adoption, a mark driven by an apparent need of the public to escape the country’s suffering currency, the rupee. A report from the Asian Development Bank found that Pakistan faces the highest cost of living in Asia, accompanied by a 25% inflation rate and stalled economic growth. Rising core expenses, such as food (18%), transportation (15%), and housing (36%), are driving inflation and pushing 98 million Pakistanis (or 41.5% of the population) into further poverty. The authoritarian regime stands accused of spending national income on military items instead of social infrastructure. They are now looking for another IMF bailout, but over half the country’s budget is already allocated to servicing its debt. This context led HRF to make a grant in 2022 to Bitcoin Pakistan to help translate resources into Urdu, a language spoken by 60 million people trapped in this repressive scenario.

Honduras | Island Adopts Bitcoin as Unit of Account

Próspera, a special economic zone in Honduras, made history by becoming the first jurisdiction to officially adopt Bitcoin as a unit of account for all financial activities. This move aims to emulate the success of existing special economic zones and can help establish this part of Honduras as a peer-to-peer economy, making it potentially easy for nonprofits with a Bitcoin focus to run their operations. Even though this is just one small part of Honduras, this news is a positive trend in a country and in a region that is otherwise facing democratic erosion. Bitcoin is being adopted by nonprofits and advocacy groups worldwide, but local legal clarity remains murky in many places. If more jurisdictions follow Próspera’s lead, there can be more headway made in crafting a global parallel economy beyond the control of authoritarian regimes.

Laos | Chinese Lending Crisis

Over the past decade, the Chinese Communist Party has extended enormous loans to Laos, a landlocked country ruled by an authoritarian regime in Southeast Asia. The population of 7.5 million people is grappling with an inflation rate of 25% and a national debt-to-GDP ratio of over 120%. China’s Belt and Road Initiative has played a key role in this crisis, where the Laotian regime borrowed excessively in recent years with loans that had no restrictions with regard to human rights or democratic progress. Laotians are increasing food production for personal consumption, adopting cheaper food alternatives, and borrowing from financial institutions. Hope for a strong financial future for families is dwindling. Worst of all, any criticism of or whistleblowing on the one-party state’s failing economic policies is met with violence, as evidenced by the assassination attempt against human rights activist “Jack” Anousa Luangsuphom.

Bangladesh | Citizens Turn to Carnival Games for Food

As food prices surge in increasingly autocratic Bangladesh, thousands are flocking to carnival games organized by content creator Omar Sunny Somrat to win modest prizes. The players aren’t in it for fame, glory, or cash, but rather to “win everyday staples like rice, oil, sugar, lentils, and other items that soaring inflation has put beyond their reach.” With the Bangladeshi currency, the taka, depreciating more than 25% against the dollar in the past 24 months, the government has capped the prices of some essential goods, such as eggs, potatoes, and onions. But these price controls have proven ineffective, and the regime continues to print money to finance military and defense expenditures, further weakening the economy for the country’s more than 170 million citizens. As we see every week in this newsletter, billions of people worldwide languish under collapsing and weak currencies, making Bitcoin education an increasingly critical mission.

The Latest in Bitcoin Development and Education

Helm and Boltz | Liquid Mobile Swaps

Portuguese developer João Bordalo on April 20 announced his latest project: Helm Wallet, a web application aimed at bridging the gap between user-friendliness and self-custody found in existing wallets. Though technically a Liquid wallet, Helm presents itself as a Lightning wallet through Boltz submarine swaps (a trade between on-chain and off-chain Bitcoin) to ensure a smooth user experience. While still under development, users can experiment with the new wallet and watch a set of short demo videos here. Elsewhere, Boltz, a Lightning Service Provider (LSP), is now leveraging a beta protocol upgrade that drastically reduces fees for Liquid–Bitcoin swaps, making micropayments from wallets like Helm possible. “Network fees drop from previously ~400 sats total to ~40 sats total,” Boltz said. Liquid, alongside other constructs like Fedimint and Cashu, can make it easier for individuals to use Bitcoin in high-fee environments.

tbDEX | Open-Source and Decentralized Messaging Platform

Block company TBD launched the tbDEX platform, which is marketed as an open-source and decentralized liquidity and trust protocol “designed to facilitate low-friction, low-cost global transactions” using both traditional and digital payment methods like Bitcoin. In a world where many people struggle to move between Bitcoin and fiat systems, platforms like tbDEX can be helpful. “There is a lot of infrastructure to be built to allow bitcoin and other technologies to be used at a larger scale, as in payments. tbDEX is part of it,” TBD CEO Mike Brock said. Speaking at a conference in Brazil, Brock announced a collaboration with two South American partners — Bankaya (a digital savings provider with over 1.4 million users) and Conduit (a transactions API provider that helps businesses move money between Latin American, African, and US markets) — as first integrations.

Joltz | Non-Custodial Wallet Support for Taproot Assets

The Joltz Wallet is the first non-custodial Bitcoin wallet designed to support Taproot assets, enhancing the use of Bitcoin for creating and managing digital assets. The wallet leverages the efficiency of the Taproot protocol and is complemented by a software development kit (SDK) to enable developers to add Taproot Asset support to their apps. This can potentially, for example, help individuals trade stablecoins with the fast and cheap properties of the Lightning Network. Learn more about Taproot Assets and the technology behind it here.

Chaincode Labs | Worldwide Bitcoin Scholarship

Chaincode Labs, a Bitcoin development and research firm, announced its Bitcoin scholarship to encourage bright students to contribute to open-source Bitcoin development. Recipients are required to engage in full-time Bitcoin development work over the summer before each academic study year and may be supported for up to four years. The scholarship covers 100% of the tuition for the recipient at any university worldwide and represents a great opportunity for any aspiring developer to help contribute to the future of sound money. To learn more or apply, visit this page.

HRF | Launch of Finney Freedom Prize

Last week, the Human Rights Foundation unveiled the Finney Freedom Prize in tribute to Hal Finney, a renowned civil liberties advocate, open-source software developer, and electronic cash pioneer. This prize, comprising a physical award and a monetary prize of 1 Bitcoin, honors individuals making significant strides at the intersection of Bitcoin and human rights. Recognizing achievements in education, innovation, accessibility, decentralization, and utility, the prize aims to reward those championing financial sovereignty and privacy, especially important as authoritarian regimes increasingly lean on financial repression to silence dissent and opposition. HRF has endowed the prize with 33 BTC, to be distributed on halving days between now and the final halving, estimated to take place sometime around the year 2140. To learn more about the Finney Freedom Prize, visit here.

bitcoin++ | Bitcoin Developer Conference

From May 1-4 this year, bitcoin++ is hosting its Bitcoin-only developer conference in Austin, Texas, to discuss the power, limitations, and future of Bitcoin script, the programming language used by Bitcoin to govern its underlying mechanisms. Different script types can be used to define the conditions under which funds can be spent on the Bitcoin network, creating an array of possibilities for transaction customization. The conference will explore the security of Bitcoin through a host of speakers spanning the Bitcoin development community. Topics include the restoration of script opcodes, debates over covenant proposals, the capabilities of BitVM, and updates on new layer 2 solutions like Ark. HRF is proud to sponsor this event, helping bring together the brightest builders in the Bitcoin community to continue innovating on Bitcoin. To learn more or buy tickets, please visit: btcplusplus.dev/conf/atx24

Recommended Content

Charlene Fadirepo: Exploring Nigeria’s Bitcoin Transformation

In the latest edition of HRF and Pubkey’s Freedom Tech series, we interviewed Charlene Fadipero, author of an upcoming book on Bitcoin adoption in Africa, on the role of Bitcoin in evading financial repression under authoritarian regimes. The conversation centered on Nigeria and how Bitcoin serves to maintain financial autonomy and protect citizens from inflation. Fadirepo shared her experiences illustrating Bitcoin’s utility in providing a financial lifeline where traditional payment systems have fallen short and where governments introduce further tools of oppression, such as central bank digital currencies (CBDCs). You can watch the full interview here.

Bitcoin as a Tool For Freedom by Félix Maradiaga

In his speech at the Bitcoin Policy Summit, Nobel Peace Prize nominee and Nicaraguan democracy advocate Félix Maradiaga discusses the importance of Bitcoin as a technology that safeguards privacy and human rights. Maradiaga provided examples from Nicaragua, where citizens have been imprisoned for minor associations with human rights groups, such as catering at events or taking photographs. He says these incarcerations are facilitated by the ability of the government to access personal financial transactions through banks. Maradiaga even mentioned his inability to open a US bank account due to being blacklisted by the Nicaraguan government. His message was clear: Bitcoin provides a crucial tool for maintaining financial privacy and freedom through its decentralized, neutral, and apolitical nature. You can watch the full speech here.

Oslo Freedom Forum | Reserve Your Spot

Human rights advocates from around the globe will take the Oslo Konserthus stage on June 3-5, 2024, to share their efforts to defy repression and speak out against injustice. This year’s theme, Reclaim Democracy, emphasizes the pivotal role every individual plays within the global movement for democracy. The Financial Freedom team is looking forward to creating a program track exploring the role open-source money plays in preserving our human rights and civil liberties. Use the code 2024OFF to get an early bird discount on your ticket.


Until next time,

Ayelen Osorio 

Financial Freedom Specialist

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